A breach of duty is a key element in a negligence claim for personal injury. You must prove that the defendant breached the duty of care to recover compensation for damages. Before defining breach of duty, it helps to understand what we mean by “duty” in a personal injury case.
What Constitutes a Duty in a Personal Injury Case?
A duty is a legal requirement to perform an act because of a certain relationship with another party. The relationship may be created by law, personal commitment, or custom. The applicable duty depends on the relationship between the parties.
In personal injury cases, you must prove the elements of negligence before you can recover compensation for damages.
The elements of a negligence case are:
- A party owed a duty of care to the plaintiff;
- The party breached the duty of care;
- The breach of duty was the cause of the plaintiff’s injury; and
- The injured party sustained damages because of the breach of duty.
You must have evidence establishing that the defendant owed a duty of care before you can prove that the defendant breached the duty of care. Generally, everyone owes a duty of care to avoid conduct that places others at risk of harm.
For example, motorists owe a duty of care to others on the road to avoid actions that could cause a car accident. Doctors owe a duty of care to patients to avoid errors and mistakes that result in medical malpractice. Property owners owe a duty of care to maintain safe premises for guests and invitees to avoid premises liability accidents.
How Do You Prove Breach of Duty in a Jacksonville Personal Injury Case?
The duty of care is a standard of care based on what a “reasonable person” would do in similar circumstances. Therefore, the standard of care that the defendant must exercise in a situation depends on the facts of the case. Negligence is failing to act with the level of care that a reasonably prudent person would have used in the same situation.
A jury decides what a “reasonable person” would have done in similar circumstances. Then, the jurors compare the defendant’s actions to the reasonable person standard. If the defendant failed to act with the same level of care, the jury might find that the defendant was negligent.
However, the plaintiff must prove two more legal elements of a negligence claim before the jury awards damages.
The plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s breach of duty caused the plaintiff’s injury. In other words, the plaintiff would not have been injured had it not been for the defendant’s conduct. Additionally, the defendant could reasonably foresee that their actions could cause another party injury.
Lastly, the plaintiff must prove that the breach of duty resulted in damages. Damages may be economic damages and non-economic damages.
Damages can include, but are not limited to:
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages
- Impairments and disability
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Once the plaintiff proves all elements of a negligence claim, the jury may award compensation for damages. The negligent party is personally liable for the amount awarded by the jury.
Breach of Duty in a Strict Liability Case
Some personal injury claims involve strict liability. The at-fault party can be held liable for damages without the plaintiff proving negligence or intention. Therefore, you only need to prove that the defendant’s conduct caused your injury to create liability for damages.
Three examples of cases that involve strict liability are:
Possession of Wild Animals
Keeping exotic or wild animals can create strict liability. The risk of injury to the public is high. Therefore, a party can be held strictly liable even if they take reasonable measures to secure the animals to protect the public from harm.
It should be noted that Florida is a strict liability state for dog bite cases. If your dog bites another person, you can be held liable for damages even though your dog has never shown any aggression or bitten another person before the incident.
Parties can be held strictly liable if they manufacture a defective or dangerous product that harms or injures a consumer. Strict liability also applies to explicit and implied warranties in product liability cases.
Abnormally Dangerous Activities
Parties that engage in abnormally dangerous activities are strictly liable for damages caused by the activity.
Abnormally dangerous activities include, but are not limited to:
- Storing, transporting, and using explosives
- Digging canals and trenches
- Production and containment of radioactive emissions
- Demolition and blasting
- Mass use of poisons, such as crop dusting and fumigating
- Disposing of hazardous chemical waste
Abnormally dangerous activities pose a severe risk to the public even though the parties take special care to guard against accidents and incidents that result in injury to other parties.
Contact a Jacksonville Personal Injury Lawyer To Help You With a Negligence Claim
Were you injured because of another party’s negligence? Contact our Jacksonville injury attorneys to discuss your case. An experienced attorney will know how to prove all elements of negligence, including breach of duty, and is familiar with the potential defenses a defendant may raise.